"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you" (John 15:16, RSV).
Today's thoughts are a continuation of last weeks essay, "Scared to Jesus"(See End Note), comments on "Scary scriptures" many have feared. As one who has battled my own fear of God and His retribution on the unfaithful, I have great empathy for those who are still caught in that terrible web of mistrust and depression. The irrational fear that "God is mad at me because I'm not perfect" becomes like the story book Tar Baby in the briar patch. As Brer Rabbit discovered, the more you fight it and try to get free, the more it sticks to you, and ensnares you, until finally you become so tied up in knots that you are as immobilized as the Tar Baby itself. I have some wonderful e-mail to share today, from readers who are kind enough to write and tell us of the ties that bound them and the truth that eventually set them free.
One woman who is opening up to the gospel like a beautiful rose bud, wrote, "In the past when I tried to share my innermost concerns I was considered negative, so I put on my mask so as not to offend anyone in the body." She has put her finger on one of Christendom's dirty little secrets: wearing a mask, pretending to be what you are not in order to be accepted by your peers. I once got a mental picture of a church full of people sitting in the pews, each wearing a "happy face" mask. Underneath it, there were scowls and frowns and tears, but on the outside, all looked good. Without the power of God, all you've got is pretending, the "fake it until you make it" philosophy. Sadly, in spiritual matters, if you try to make it on your own, you never will, and how does that leave you? An old fake, probably. I am so thankful for the counseling I had which allowed me to whine and rant and rave and totally be a mess for the time it took to verbalize my fears and dreads, look at them, give them to God, and finally be delivered from them.
The woman I quoted above also wrote that part of her fear is that "only one group seemed to be chosen and blessed while the rest of us had to hope that we were somehow accepted. This acceptance was demonstrated through Christ but many of us continue to fear we were just an "afterthought" and not really wanted. I feel more worthy of the crumbs from the Master's table than receiving the children's' bread.... For me, the lack of 'acceptance' from peers and the like (as imperfect as they were) made it difficult for me to imagine acceptance from one so perfect as the Father...... I'm learning that access to the Father only depends on the work of Christ and His work is finished. As far as access goes there is nothing left for me to do but enter in with thankfulness." End quote.
After reading her negative self evaluation, I realized that she had projected the conditional love and low self esteem she experienced in her birth family out onto the Father, and then she had gone down for the count as she evaluated her flesh in its inability to emulate the divine. It was at that moment when this title came to me in a flash of clarity. It's not about YOU! It is only about Christ! Paul wrote the Ephesians, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:4-6, KJV). That verse makes my heart sing from beginning to end! First of all, we were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, before we were clothed in flesh, before we were born, before we sinned. That means we were predestined, predetermined to be adopted by Jesus Christ to himself. Why? Because of the pleasure of His will and "the glory of His grace, wherein He has made us accepted in the beloved!" The acceptability or unacceptability of our flesh matters not a whit, because we have already been accepted IN CHRIST! GLORY! That makes me want to shout "HALLELUJAH," to anyone who will listen.
This verse alone proves that it is not about YOU. It is not about ME. It is about what God did before the foundation of the world. As a result of Adam's sin, we believed the lie Satan sold Eve, which is that because we now know good and evil, we are like gods. Do you realize the implications of that? Our egos fed upon this lie and became so big that there's hardly any room large enough for some people and their egos to fit into at the same time! The refining fire of God is what we must have to burn off this dross and free us from this lie.
Because it is very difficult to get hold of the fact that we were chosen while we were in spirit, in Christ before the foundation of the world, let's focus on flesh, where we all live right now. To our natural minds, it would have seemed to be a cleaner, more peaceful relationship if God had just left us in spirit, to relate to Him that way, but He did not, for His own purposes which are revealed in Christ. Instead, He was not afraid to get His hands dirty in the pigpen of flesh and blood and the carnal nature and get down here in the mud and gore with us.
His first important visitation with human kind, after Adam's fall, was with Abraham, the perfect human prototype, because he was very flawed, and had similar character weaknesses to all the rest of us. So far as we know, he was more or less minding his own business, unaware of God other than the idol worship that his clan practiced at the time (Josh. 24:14-15). Full of grace and glory, standing before the council who accused him, Stephen told how God met Abraham and commanded him to leave the land of his fathers and go to the far country (Acts 7:2-3). The presence of God, the glory of the Father was as impossible to resist then, as it is now; so, Abraham packed up his wife, his nephew Lot and his belongings and set off on the grand adventure that would result in the salvation of the whole world.
God promised him that in his seed would all the nations of the earth be blessed (Gen. 22:18: 26:4; 28:14; Acts 3:25; Gal. 3:8). This was a prophecy about the Christ, the Lord's Anointed who would be the Savior of the world (Gal. 3:16). To make it more interesting, God chose a man with a barren wife to whom He made this incredible promise. Though according to Stephen, Abraham did not own so much as a foot of the land of Canaan at the time he lived there (Acts 7:5), nevertheless, God promised it to his descendants, and in the process, made Abraham an extremely wealthy man, with camels, and herds and flocks and servants. Time rocked along, and Abraham began to worry about this heir he had been promised.
Being a practical man with "street smarts" as we say today, he decided to help God out, reasoning, "O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir" (Gen. 15:2-3, NIV). It sounded logical to the natural mind. No heir came forth from his own loins so he would promote a trusted servant into the position. How many times have I tried to help God? A few.
The Lord was having none of man's help then, just as He will have none of it now: "Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars, if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be" (Gen. 15:4-5, NIV). It was at this point that the scripture says of Abraham, "Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness" (Gen. 15:6). Paul elaborates on this in Romans, and says of Abraham, "I have made you the father of many nations," in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist" (Rom. 4:17, RSV). What an awesome God we serve, who gives "life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist." He credited Abraham's faith to him as righteousness, though the man was not righteous at all. Because Sarai was very beautiful and he was afraid for his life, he lied and said she was his sister when they went into Egypt, because he was afraid Pharaoh would kill him and take her for his own. The Egyptian king did, in fact, take her, but God smote Pharaoh's household with "serious diseases" until he gave her back (Gen. 12:13-20). Not only did God not hold Abraham's lie against him, but he caused Pharaoh to give him much "sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels" (12:16).
Abraham's character flaws had nothing to do with God's promise to him, which was based only upon His actions, not Abe's. When he believed God, it was credited to him for righteousness. You may say, "Yes but he had to believe," to which I would point out that he had encountered the glory of God, the presence of the Lord, making belief an easy thing to do, even as it is for us when God appears to us, calls us, and plants His divine seed in our hearts, bringing forth the new creation. A man who has truly been born again has had a close encounter with the divine, the result of which is always FAITH! It is the Faith of the Son of God which saves us, never our faith! (Eph. 2:8-9; Gal. 2:20).
There's a fascinating encounter between God and Abraham recorded in Genesis 15, one which I read over for years without fully understanding until the Spirit opened it up. Though Abraham had faith, yet like most of us, he still had questions, and asked God how he would know that he would ultimately gain possession of the land (15:8). "So the LORD said to him, "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon." Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half" (Gen. 15:9-10, NIV).
Upon first reading, this means nothing to our Western minds, but the Lord led me to some fascinating information provided by Ray Vander Laan, a bible scholar, historian and archeologist. In that ancient culture, when people swore an oath to each other, they made a blood covenant. They would take animals, split them in half from neck to tail, and lay the pieces on each side of a channel they had dug to catch the blood. The lesser of the two men would walk through the blood first, and then the more important man would walk through it last. It was a dramatic and gory way to say, "If I do not perform my oath to you, you may cut me in two and walk through my blood as we are walking through these animals' blood."
The King James Version of Abraham's reaction to this covenant with God reads like this, "And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him" (Gen. 15:12, KJV). No wonder a horror fell upon Abraham, because he knew he might fail, but God surely would not, and he feared what would happen to him if he couldn't perform. This is certainly the very place so many Christians are in today, with performance anxiety, fear of failure before God, or more specifically, fear of the consequences of that failure. Ray Vander Laan brought it home for me, which you can read in my detailed study called "The Blood Covenant" (See End Note). The short version is that the daily sacrifices performed by the priests under the Law, were a reminder to the people, that when they saw the lamb's throat being cut and the blood draining out of it and running down the side of the altar, they were to remember that this is what God said to Abraham could be done to HIM if He failed to perform.
In actual fact, then, Jesus, as the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, was the living embodiment of that blood covenant, EXCEPT, God did not fail. Man failed, but our generous, unconditional Father said, "Here, take my blood, for it alone will pay the debt owed." So, when we did our worst to God, killing His only Son, He gave us the best He had, the Lamb of God, who took upon Himself the sins of the whole world. He was the seed of Abraham through whom the entire creation is blessed (Gal. 3:16). Paul said about these encounters between God and Abraham, that God preached the gospel to him "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed"" (Gal. 3:8, RSV).
About this faith by which we are saved, a friend wrote, "We need a clear understanding of that faith, what it really is and does. It is not a tool to manipulate God with, not a magic formula, not a crutch. It is our lifeline. If the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE has overcome the world and we are supposed to be of good cheer about it, then He must be totally confident that what He did worked, took, and as He said is FINISHED, so whatever we are going through here has its purpose and no matter what we think about it or how long it lasts or how bad or good it feels, we have good cheer." End quote.
A brother who is coming out of legalism gloriously, wrote the perfect summation of our subject today, "It's not about YOU!" He began with Jesus' promise, "And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world" (John 12:47). He concluded from this verse, "It is evident from this verse that Jesus came to the world with a definite mission. That mission was to save the world. The construction of this statement can leave no doubt that "the world" is all inclusive. If there is one human, one animal, one vegetable, one drop of water, or one grain of sand that Jesus does not save, His mission could only be classed as a tragic failure. Can such a failure by the divine Son of God through which all things were made be conceivable? No excuse given by man for Jesus' failure to save the world is acceptable." End Quote.
Father, we fall upon our faces before you as we see that our salvation, our purification, our justification, our sanctification and our sonship depends only upon Your promise to Abraham and us, not upon our efforts. Do whatever it takes, Father, to open us up to this truth that we may rest in You and glorify Your name throughout the ages to come. Grant us the power to speak peace to the heathen who are waiting to know You as You are. Amen. Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Scared to Jesus"
"The Blood Covenant"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 6/19/03
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/27/08.